NHL Mailbag: Did Maple Leafs just invent the NHL luxury tax with David Clarkson trade?
Y’know, for a week in late July, a whole lot of stuff just happened. The Lucic trade, Trouba contract, Clarkson trade, Pionk contract, Sissons contract, arbitration decisions, assistant coach hires. Probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.
Point is, all this happened in mid- to late July? What a dream for me, a hockey content creator and take-doer. And also for you, the nice fans who can ask questions that I then answer. While I do fear for what August brings, I’m still loving the summer fun.
Jag asks: “Are shorter term contracts like Matthews’ going to become the norm in the NHL among top-tier talent?”
Yeah, I can’t imagine why a player like, say, I don’t know, just to choose one at random, Connor McDavid, would sign up for a max term and a contract that, three or four years on, won’t be the biggest in the league. No one’s caught him yet, but we’re getting closer all the time.
By the end of that deal, $12.5 million probably won’t even be a top-five AAV in the league. However, if you start resetting the clock every five years, then you get to continually stay ahead of the game.
That kind of thing isn’t for everyone, though. It’s the high-high-high-end guys who could and should be doing it. They have the heft and the likelihood of huge future earnings that other guys, even the ones a rung below them in the talent ladder, simply do not. It’s a lot easier to turn down an extra three years at $10 million per if you’re pretty confident you can get way more than that $10 million. Most guys wouldn’t have a reason to be, so they’d be wiser to take the extra $30 million and run.
Marcel asks: “Did Dubas just invent the NHL luxury tax with that David Clarkson business?”
I mean, not really. I think he just did something the Leafs should have been doing for years: Using their financial clout to their advantage. I’m not sure why the Leafs and other truly rich teams (Montreal, the Rangers, etc.) wouldn’t be actively seeking out these contracts if they’re not worried about having to pay rookie or 35-plus bonuses. It just gives you more wiggle room.
With that said, I’ve also seen a few people call this cap circumvention and that, to me, scans like people who are mad at the Leafs for being the Leafs again. I get it but also: grow up.
Tony asks: If Lucic can be moved, that means there has to be a way for Chicago to move Seabrook without giving up every single prospect right?”
I hate when people say, “Hey even Wayne Gretzky was traded” but now I think you can say “Hey even Lucic was traded” at the opposite end of the spectrum. A guy you thought no team would trade for got traded and didn’t even need to leave the province, let alone the division. Still blows my mind.
Anyway, here are the factors working against Stan Bowman: Seabrook has a no-move (just like Lucic), and is older, worse, signed for longer, and more expensive.
If Chicago can find a way to get that contract off the books for literally anything, with literally any package, they should put Bowman in the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow. Maybe the Halls for baseball, basketball and football, too.
TJ asks via DM: “A lot of FLA fans think adding Quenneville as coach makes their team significantly better (and makes them one of the five most improved teams over the offseason specifically). What's your view on the value of coaching?”
Good coaching adds a lot to a team but I think bad coaching hurts even more.
I’m not sure Florida is a great example, because I don’t think Bob Boughner was doing a horrible job across the board (his goaltender management, though…). Look at the Islanders last season. Get rid of a bad coach, replace him with a pretty good one, and all of a sudden even a relatively low-talent team like the Islanders can look pretty good with the exact same personnel.
Also look at St. Louis this year. Look at Pittsburgh when they won the Cup. A team like the Blues with a few real talents and a lot of depth can go from worst to first. A high-talent team like Pittsburgh went from underwhelming to back-to-back Cup champs. It’s not a coincidence.
But I guess to really illustrate my point: I thought Glen Gulutzan was a bad hire for Calgary on Day 1 and I think there are real issues Bill Peters has with managing his talent. But the Flames went from missing the playoffs by a mile to winning the Western Conference without much difference in the roster, and it’s not like they got an all-time great coach or anything.
So yeah, just try not to hire a bad coach. Pretty simple.
Katie asks: “Q: NYR or NJD?”
This year? NJD. Going forward? NYR.
I know everyone really likes the Rangers’ summer, and with good reason, but has everyone seen the bottom half of that roster? The center depth hits a wall at No. 2, and the wings are a little better but they’re also mostly very young guys or NHL rookies (Andersson, Kravstov, Kakko).
I think Trouba’s kind of a low-end top-pair guy who can put up points. Brady Skjei is a nice second-pair guy forced into a top-pair role. Shattenkirk might be toast, Tony DeAngelo is a 4-5 guy for me, Adam Fox could be good but he’s a rookie, and Marc Staal is Marc Staal.
Plus this team is over the cap with guys to sign? Okay. I don’t even love the Devils’ chances to make the postseason this year (unless Cory Schneider really did figure it out after coming back from injury around the new year), but all this “rebuild over” stuff out of Broadway is a bit much for me right this second.
Two, three, four years from now, that Rangers team should be a juggernaut as long as they find a suitable Lundqvist replacement. Obviously there’s no replacing someone of his level, but if they get a reliably league-average goaltender from their huge pool of good goaltending prospects, that’s probably all they need.
dfd asks: “Are they trading Risto or what?”
This is starting to feel like a “beginning of training camp” thing. Remember, that’s when Erik Karlsson finally got dealt last year.
Something clearly has to give on that blue line, which doesn’t look great but certainly looks improved. They at least have guys who can convincingly move the puck on every pairing, and that’s a step in the right direction.
As to your question, more specifically? Yeah, Ristolainen is the obvious choice for a trade, but if they could find someone to take Zach Bogosian and Marco Scandella off their hands, too, that would be good news. Man that group stunk the last few years. Yikes.
Sean asks: “What teams have done everything they could with their core, but the core wasn’t/isn’t good enough and should blow it up, and don’t know it yet or won’t do it, and will entertain us with mediocrity for a couple more years until it dawns on them?”
Obviously Minnesota. Probably Philadelphia, though that might depend on Carter Hart. Detroit, too, but that would be a bit difficult to pull off. LA and Anaheim are clear choices. Feels like we’re about a year away from saying the same thing about Winnipeg if things keep trending in this direction. If the Stars don’t do something next season I’d probably throw them in here as well.
I feel like I’m forgetting someone, though…
Gurshaan asks: “Is there a path to a Habs Stanley Cup with Carey Price and Shea Weber on the roster?”
Oh right, yeah, Montreal too.
Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his here.
Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.
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